In this week’s IG Live chat, Pedddle founder Nicki chatted to Jo McCarthy, business coach and owner of Firain. Firain is for people who have, or would like to have, a creative business that feels energising, inspiring and fulfilling.
Firain began life as an ethical online shop which sold the work of independent makers, but Jo now offers business coaching. Jo is therefore ideally placed to talk about fresh starts, positivity and how to make your business work better for you.
Check out our Q&A and watch the IG Live discussion below:
Pedddle: Jo, tell us a little more about Firain began.
Jo: Firain has had two lives. It was a beautiful online shop, selling the work of ethical, independent makers, which I opened in September 2017. The products evoked the meaning of the ancient Welsh word Firain: good, noble, fair, and fine.
In late 2019, my focus shifted to behind the scenes of small businesses. Firain has a new life as a platform for creative business owners – or those who would like to be.
Through my blog, monthly newsletter, coaching packages and social media audits, I share my knowledge and draw on the vast experience of other small business owners.
Pedddle: Do you have any top tips to keep your mind positive, fresh and focused?
Jo: I think one of the most liberating things to think about is that we simply cannot control everything. It can be so frustrating to work against a backdrop of change. But it’s this climate of change and uncertainty that can bring out really interesting qualities in people. For example, if you’re struggling to get the supplies you need, maybe it’s a time to look at other product ideas. Maybe it’s the perfect time to look at working in a more ethical way. Maybe you can’t go to physical markets this year, but can you instead use that time to create videos of your work and host virtual sales and pop up shops instead.
I encourage my coaching clients to do a few exercises that help to focus when things are changing quickly, and they really help with working out your own values, too.
One exercise is to write a list of all the things in your business that you can control, and the things you can’t. The things you can’t control might be easier to write: the cost of postage stamps, the monthly costs of your eCommerce platform, etc. Many people feel that they can’t control their social media, that the algorithm is out to get them.
When we start to write the things we can control, we often find the list is longer than we expect. You can control the amount of time you have to spend in your business – it comes down to priorities. You can control the amount of money you spend. You can control the way you talk about your business. This exercise can really help if we feel we’re stuck in a rut and shift the focus back onto why you want to run to your own business in the first place.
Pedddle: Do you have any favourite positive mantras? Do they help you focus or get motivated?
Jo: I don’t use mantras as such, but there are a few quotes that I try to keep in mind. I posted one of them on Instagram today actually, which is from Willy Wonka: “You’ll never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing like that.”
I believe we should respect our creative ideas and give them space to grow. This takes time and hard graft, but it’s better than ‘what-iffing’. It’s actually on my website, too. It helps me to stop the analysis-paralysis that can so easily keep us from moving forward in our goals.
Another one is “sometimes you just need to take a nap and get over it”. I can be quite sensitive, as many of us can, but putting an issue to bed or literally taking myself off to bed for a nap actually really helps me to calm down!
Pedddle: Keeping focus and time efficiency are definitely things I struggled to stick to. Do you use any methods to keep you focused and time efficient?
Jo: I often struggle with focus and efficiency, too. A few things help me:
- I try to do one thing at once. For me, that means if I am coaching a client on Zoom, I have no other tabs open on my computer unless we are looking at something together. I take a coffee break at 10 and a tea break at 3 and have lunch between 12 and 1. It’s funny that I have this structure because I am not a fan of strict schedules, but I’ve worked from home for myself for three years now and I know that sticking to a routine has helped me work in a more focused way.
- Another thing that really helps me is to keep my phone in another room. I have a massive problem with checking my phone all day, so I’ve had to take drastic action. I know this might not work for everyone, but for me, after a while, I realised that if someone texts me, I don’t have to reply immediately. If someone DMs me on Instagram, they won’t mind if I take time to get back to them.
- I’ve also worked out how long it takes me to do something and this helps me figure out my priorities for the day. For example, I don’t plan my Instagram captions at all. I do think about the images to share and have in the back of my mind what I might talk about. But I don’t draft the captions. I often wake up and feel motivated to write something. So I know that I don’t need much time for that job. However, writing my newsletter or blog posts takes me ages, so I don’t even try to squeeze them in. I allow time for them to unfold. Knowing which tasks in your business are easy and comfortable for you, and which aren’t, can really help with efficiency.
Pedddle: It’s easy to set too many targets for ourselves and I know a lot of people don’t want to return to the pressure they set themselves before COVID hit. What are you doing to ease the pressure and how do you advise people to set targets?
Jo: This is such an interesting topic. The first thing to do is to think about how the targets made you feel. This is connected to what motivates you. Did the target to make 35 ceramic mugs in a week feel good to you – were you pumped and energised to work in that way, or were you completely burnt out? Try not to look to others for the answers, but dig deep and work out what makes you tick as a maker.
When you know that certain tasks trigger certain feelings, you can then start to work out a game plan. Your targets might include sales and money, and they might include targets like “I will finish work at 5pm every day, because I will then enjoy the evening with my family without the pressure of work.” It’s essential to make a record of these feelings.
My own targets have a few layers to them. Every week, I aim to work a certain number of hours and no more; I aim to use social media in a conscious way; I have sales targets but since I work 1:1 with clients at the moment, there is a limit to the number of calls I can have in a week. It’s something I am always tweaking. Then I have my monthly targets and goals, and at the moment that includes sending a monthly newsletter and writing a few blog posts. I do think quarterly goals are helpful, but tweak them regularly. It’s better to have a ‘ta-daaaah’ list than a ‘to-do’ list!
Pedddle: Speaking of realism, let’s talk Instagram. How much do we share? I am such an advocate of showing the behind the scenes and letting your audience learn more about ‘you’ and your business, but how much is too much? Do you have any advice on boundaries?
Jo: Another great question, which comes up regularly in my coaching work. Some people prefer to use Instagram solely for their business. They often have a private Instagram to share pictures of their families or homes. Others are comfortable in sharing their day to day lives, because this might inform the story of their business. For example, if you’re an artist, you might take us on your travels for inspiration through Instagram stories or Reels. The ‘how much is too much’ is such a personal question and often depends on how much you worry about what other people think.
If you’re unsure of where your personal boundaries lie, take note of how the content produced by other people makes you feel, and why. That person shares daily pictures of their kids as well as their pottery wheel or studio or knitting pile; how does that make you feel?
Whereas that business seems to be owned by a woman in Wales, but I’m actually not sure because I can’t see a picture of her anywhere… so how do I feel about that?
Once you’ve worked out where your boundaries lie – and they aren’t set in stone, they can shift and wiggle – you can then weave your story into your work without crossing those boundaries. I can help you work that out, but you can also make notes when you see others doing it and try to create your own version.
Pedddle: Which other people on Instagram do you look to for positivity and motivation? Do you have any suggestions?
Jo: I chuckled at this question because I follow so many inspirational people that it’s hard to narrow it down! My current favourites are:
- Lucy Werner at Wern Chat ~ Lucy’s book, Hype Yourself, is a must-read for small businesses who want to do their own PR.
- Kim Darragon is a marketing expert whose fabulous videos bring all the nitty gritty, mysterious stuff of marketing to life. She is experienced and very motivating.
- I also love Studio Cotton, a marketing agency in Bristol, who share so much valuable content on their blog and Instagram. If you coach with me, I have probably sent a link to the Studio Cotton blog at some point!
If you’d like to know more about Firain or work with Jo, you can find further details below:
If you sign up for Jo’s newsletter or have a read of her blog, she shares some fabulous business tips and advice, and shares client’s stories which are inspirational.
She also offers 4 main packages:
- Sow – a one off coaching call
- Plant – a 4 week coaching plan (which has so far been her most popular offering)
- Bloom – a longer coaching programme over 3 months or so.
- Instagram audits, which offer you a written report on your Instagram account.
Listen to the Live chat: